March 4, 2012 @ 2:29 pm
Suppose you are getting ready to go away on a trip. You grab your suitcase and fill it with everything you are going to need for your time away: your clothes, your shoes, your personal items. You get it all together and ready to go and then you pack it all together and put it away in your suitcase. When it comes time to go, you take your suitcase with you to the airport, check your bag at the counter, board the plane, and anticipate arrival at your destination confident that you have packed your suitcase full with everything you are going to need. Well, it just so happens that one of the other passengers traveling on the same flight on that same day coincidentally must shop for their luggage at the very same department store that you do and as it turns out she bought the exact same bag. Where you filled it with all your clothes that fit your person and your purpose she filled her bag with items to fit hers. And lo and behold when the bags where making their way around the baggage claim conveyor you picked up the wrong bag. At first you can't even tell the difference, after all, they appear the same. But then when you arrive at your hotel and start to unpack it is then that you realize the difference. All the contents are different. What appeared to be the same on the surface turned out to be very different. Dear friends, words and especially for our purposes today, God’s Words, are like suitcases. And like suitcases, they are packed full. And in the same way, as you were unpacking that misplaced suitcase in your hotel room you would notice similar themes – shirts, pants, personal items, etc. they would be different. Likewise, while the themes and concepts packed in to the definition of a word might be very similar, the meaning can be totally different. And when it comes to God’s Words, getting themes and ideas close to what God intends isn’t nearly close enough. And if you are off even just a little bit you will entirely miss the point. Try to put on the clothes you find in a suitcase switched at the airport terminal and you are not going to be properly dressed. In the same way, if you put on the meaning unpacked from those Bible Words but that have been packed by somebody other than the Lord and you are going to show up to heaven improperly dressed. You need to make sure you are wearing the right clothes. To do that you need to make sure you pick up the right bag. Take, for example, the word Christ. That is totally a Bible Word. It is an Old Testament word. A word that God used to describe the Savior he planned and promised to send from the very beginning. It’s Hebrew associate is Messiah. It is a title that the Lord gives to the one he would send to save the human race from punishment for sin and death and suffering in hell. It is an important word. And the way you understand that word, and the meaning that you stuff into that word is incredibly important. In our Gospel for today we see that Peter and Jesus were using the exact same word, but they each had filled it differently. They each had packed it full with their own meaning. Jesus came to his disciples and asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist. Some say Elijah. Others say one of the prophets.” “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” And here is Peter’s response: “You are the Christ.” Peter had the right word. He had the right suitcase, but that word was packed with the wrong meaning. Again, just like unpacking the wrong suitcase at the hotel you will notice similar items, albeit items that don’t fit just right. In the same way Peter packed similar things into his definition of that word Christ. It was after all a kingly word. It was defined in the Old Testament as one who would sit on the throne of his father David, who would put his enemies under his feet, who would lead God’s people forward in victory. So, when Peter packed the word Christ full of meaning he chose a wardrobe fit for a king: a rich robe fit with a gold clasp. A golden crown, a scepter, a kingly throne. The Christ is a king. Let’s make him a king for the ages. In the very next scene we see that Jesus opened up his suitcase, we see Jesus unpacking that very same Word. And yes, there was a crown, there was a purple robe, there was a throne. But they were entirely different from the ones that Peter envisioned. “Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” A crown? Yes, with thorns. A scepter? Indeed, but instead of gold it was a simple blade of grass. And that fine purple robe? Yes, that was there too but it was stained with blood and given for mockery and abuse. And the throne? The throne was the cross where Jesus was nailed and condemned to die. Peter and Jesus were using the exact same word. They even filled that word with similar things – a throne, a crown, a kingly robe. But in the end, Peter had grabbed the wrong suitcase. And the result was a disaster. Peter thought that Jesus was wrong. That Jesus packed the wrong outfit into that Kingly Word, and he told him so. Peter began to correct Jesus. But Jesus knew exactly what he was saying. He had his outfit perfect coordinated, tailored, and fitted. This was exactly what he had come to do. So Jesus corrected Peter. “ You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men. Get behind me Satan.” Having the right suitcase packed with the right stuff has to do with having the right mind, it has to do with having a mind of the flesh versus the mind of the Spirit. Peter’s mind was of the flesh. His mind was informed by the sinful flesh that is always seeking glory and fame and honor and power. The mind of flesh thinks of ways to ascend to the heights and Peter illustrates this perfectly. The mind of the Spirit looks to Jesus. In Jesus it sees suffering and shame and dishonor at the hands of the world. It sees service and love and self-sacrifice – all things that the mind of the flesh hates. Peter needed to be taught. He needed to be trained. He needed to have his mind turned. Jesus responded to Peter’s packing job harshly so that he could train the mind of his disciple. So that Peter would repent of his flesh-oriented thinking and turn to a mind governed by the Spirit. Today is the beginning of our celebration of National Lutheran Schools Week. This week St Paul Chuckery together with other Lutheran Schools across the Synod are celebrating Lutheran Education. Lutheran Schools train minds. Our Board of Stewardship has just begun reading a book – God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in all of Life. It’s by Gene Veith. It was inspired by Martin Luther’s teaching that the Christian lives life in the world as one who has been called by God to perform the work he does no matter how mundane that work might seem. God feed those who are hungry; he calls farmers and chefs and bakers or bread to help him. God maintains order in the world by punishing those who break the law and he does it by calling police officers to patrol the streets and arrest criminals. God protects people from danger and rescues them from perilous situations and he calls firemen and rescue workers to help him. God also teaches us to read and write and he does it by calling teachers to help him. In our discussion of the this book we were noticing how the Lutheran reformation made prominent both the vocation of teacher and the vocation of student, after all, this world is God’s world and if Christians are to truly appreciate it for what it is, if Christians are truly to fill the earth and subdue it as God has commanded then we should study it. God teaches us about the beauty and the order he has built into his world and he calls teachers to help us in this task of learning. Because of this understanding, Lutheran Christians have built and maintained Lutheran Schools ever since, for these past 500 years. We at St Paul Chuckery are heirs of this great legacy. Lutheran Schools train minds. Now, let’s unpack that suitcase. Talk of training minds, can after all be stuffed full with several different meanings. Some people pack it with caps and gowns, and then with uniforms or lab coats or business suits. Education, training a mind is a means to an end. You will know it is successful by graduation rates and test scores and job placements. That is what education is for. But we know better. Sure education does those things. But our school isn’t just a factory for turning out good employees. Nor does our school teach students those things that reinforce the flesh. Instead our school is a nurturing ground for the spirit. It is a curriculum that is connected and tied to the Spirit’s influence. It is an environment where students learn the Word of God, where students are trained and ministered to by teachers who are not just teachers, they are servant in the Lord who pray for our children and who pray with them. They guide these young minds in understanding the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are after all two minds – a spiritual mind and fleshly mind. You can have the Old Adam on the brain or the New? Christian education is about imparting that mind of Christ. Christian education is about training the mind so that it understands the Gospel of Jesus. Peter had his bags packed with a mind of flesh. And then he stepped in to Jesus’ classroom. His mind of flesh told him that Jesus was going to march on Jerusalem kick out the Roman oppressors and then get dressed in a purple robe with a golden crown and sit on a Jerusalem throne in a Jewish kingdom. Jesus had Spirit-informed mind. A mind that saw the cross and its suffering, but that also saw the Gospel and forgiveness. The Mind of Jesus saw victory for the Human Race over sin and death. The mind of Jesus saw freedom from fear and from guilt, from a bad conscience that has been abused by the accusations of the Devil. The Mind of Jesus saw that this was only possible through his suffering and death on the cross. And so, when Jesus packed up his suitcase, when he filled up his title of The Christ of God he knew that it meant that He was going to die. But he was okay with that. He even embraced that. Peter’s mind needed to be trained. So Jesus trained it. He rebuked Peter, in the full presence of the rest of the disciples and even the crowds. Jesus wanted them all to know the right way to pack this suitcase, the right reference for the word “Christ”. That’s what Jesus does. Because that is what Jesus does, that is what we do. That’s what we do here at school. A St Paul Chuckery mind is trained to read and write and spell. It can tell you Ohio history and American History. Studying with my own 4th grader I can tell you that they know about the National Road and the Erie Canal. Studying with my 2nd Grader I can tell you that they know past and present tense verbs, compound subjects and how to make you verb agree with the subject. But I can also tell you that they know the creed, the Lord’s Prayer, that the Words of Life and learned and committed to memory. That they can tell you about the life of Jesus that was given for them. Dear friends, virtually every religion buys their suitcase at the same store. They use the same words: faith, forgiveness, redemption, justification, sanctification, the Son of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus. But I can tell you that if you were to take these suitcases home and start to unpack them you would find an outfit that just doesn’t fit. You would find a gospel but it would be a gospel that still had the price tag attached and with an invoice for money still to be paid tucked in the pocket. And I can tell you, any price is more than you can pay. You see, the gospel doesn’t come with payments still to be paid. The robe of righteousness God gave to wear at your baptism doesn’t still have a bill of sale. It’s all God’s gift. It’s all free. The Gospel is a suitcase packed for you by God. Open it up and you will find exactly what you need to be dressed for heaven’s banquet. The finest of clothes tailored perfectly to fit you. All purchased and paid for by the blood of Jesus and his righteousness given for you. All these things are yours. They are God’s gift to you. Ready made. Freely given. Freely received. Flesh and blood has not revealed this. It is revealed by the Spirit of God. In His name. Amen.